November 2011

Corocraft's "Twisted Trunk" tree pin

Corocraft spawned from Coro, one of the most well-known costume jewelry companies in America.  They were known for pretty and affordable jewelry for all women, sold in five and dime stores, as well as specialty boutiques.  Their best pieces have been said to be made between the 1930’s-1950’s, of which one of their higher end lines, Corocraft, was produced after 1937. 

Corocraft evergreen

The name Coro came from the first two letters of the company partners and founders last names, Cohn (Emmanuel) and Rosenberg (Gerard).  Their small shop in New York grew into an empire that employed a work force of more than 2,000. 

Although better known for their duettes, jelly belly lucite pieces and tremblers, Coro/Corocraft produced one of the finest Christmas tree pin designs ever created.  It was rendered in shiny, texutred gold tone with clear rhinestones pave set in a diamond weave pattern, 3D cone with a twisted thread trunk, which was duplicated in color schemes of green/clear, pink/clear, and a multi-color version of pink/green/blue/clear. 

Corocraft pretty in pink

Corocraft multi-color tree

For each color scheme, Corocraft also produced matching earrings for these tree pins (See photos). I love these trees so much that I have them all, all color schemes and with their matching earrings!

A rarer tree copied their faux pearl swirl circle pin.  In my previous article, I featured their battery-powered, light up Christmas tree pins.  The American based Coro jewelry company ceased production in 1979, but Coro Inc. in Canada is still in operation today.

Stay Tuned for next article:  Snowflake brooches!

Corocraft faux pearl circle brooch

Corocraft faux pearl holiday arbor

Corocraft matching tree earrings on original card


Corocraft battery powered tree, "at rest"

Vintage Christmas tree pins with battery compartments that are not corroded are a beautiful and somewhat rare thing, especially when a little round battery lights them up!  I have had a few Corocraft and one Hattie Carnegie battery-powered tree.  All the Corocraft ones went to town on a button cell battery, but I have yet to figure out what tiny battery will charge up the old Carnegie.  Amazingly, the one I have is in pristine condition, right down to the original pins that hold the cover in place over the battery.  I will continue my search for the right one, but if anyone knows, please write in!  The Corocraft trees, by the way, take an “AG13” button cell battery.  GLOW!

Stay Tuned:  All the beautiful Corocraft trees!

Joy, joy! It lights up!

Corocraft "Cone" Tree, battery-powered

Hattie Carnegie, ready for the right battery!


ABC alphabet sterling Christmas tree pin

Last article, I presented many of the designer signed holiday arbors that are featured in published guide books, which are prime names to watch out for when collecting and valuing tree pins.  But what about those mysterious branches that are unsigned?  Some of the rarest and most elusive Christmas tree pins can be unsigned beauties, with some of them showing up in the guide books as well.

Diamond Lattic Christmas tree pin

I believe Mary Morrison started the trend in her Christmas jewelry book (2nd edition, 2002), as she highlighted 137 unsigned beauties on pages 91-111.  Of these, I have 24 in my personal collection.

Six years later, Kathy Flood took it a step further with her 2008 publication, “Collecting Christmas Jewelry: Christmas Tree Pins, Volume 1: Unsigned”, focusing exclusively on unsigned holiday beauties in various named categories, such as “Antique plastique, Instant Messaging, Mistletoe & Holly, Rue de Rivolis, Silver Thrills and Blue, Blue Christmas”, among others.  I have 40 of the trees pictured in Flood’s book.

Blue Christmas tree pin

Satin Glass Christmas tree pin

Flood explains that many unsigned trees were in fact created by some of the more noteworthy design houses or individual designers, but were not marked as such because some, like Gem-Craft, created trees for other companies, or simply because including the mark was forgotten, overlooked, or the product went out in a rush, and some carried a paper tag rather than a permanent mark on the pin, like Juliana D’Elizza & Elster pieces.

Candy Cane tree pin

According to Flood, for example, she estimates that a quarter to a third of all Lia trees she’s seen have been unmarked.  Her book now gives credit to many of these unsigned mysteries, such as those designed by Verecchia, Kramer of New York, Mylu, Beatrix, Pell, Marvella, and Trifari.  For other trees, she’s only able to give a hint from whence they came, such as Paris, Czecholovakia, a Washington-state maker for Nordstrom’s, 90% sure that it was the Trifari section counter at a department store, Marshall’s, SteinMart, Value City or lesser known places and designers like the Victorian Village in Kimmswick, Missouri, Latasia, or the Zoppini charms counter.  Still others remain a mystery, and she asks, “Will the designer who made this piece please stand up?”

Another notable category of unsigned trees are “mirror images” or copies of popular signed designs.  Some mimic the designers so well, it’s hard to tell the difference with the exception that they are sans hallmark.  Others are a poor man’s copy, made with lesser materials, refinement, and maybe a little less glitz.  Collecting these faux designer trees is a great way for a new collector to acquire coveted styles at more palatable prices.  For example, the real St. John tree is $250+ when found, but copies valued at $25-40 still capture its “unique design aesthetic”.

Japanned, clear unfoiled navettes tree pin

Austria-style Blue glass cabochon Christmas tree pin

I keep sticky tabs in both Morrsion’s and Flood’s books for those unsigned trees I have been lucky enough to acquire for my own collection.  For the rest, I keep in my somewhat photographic memory (only for vintage jewelry do I have this kind of phenomenal memory!) in store for the hunt, so I can spot them among a forest of trees.

Plique a Jour-style Enamel Christmas tree pin

Still more unsigned beauties in my collection I judge for myself to be book-worthy, standouts because they are so wonderfully unique and well-crafted.  Perhaps my picks will someday grace the pages of a Morrison, Flood or Trowbridge book, or fancifully I dream of writing my own book if and when some publisher decides I have earned the Christmas tree pin guru title.  Until then, I dream of finding book pieces, commit them to memory, and keep my eyes sharply pealed for the next unsung hero of the arbor world.

Watermelon Rivoli Christmas tree pin

Jesus is the Reason for the Season tree pin

Green Snowman Christmas tree pin

Tiny, curvy Christmas tree pin

1962 Christmas tree pin with "Merry Xmas To You" message tag

Dangling crystals tree pin

Strung Crystals Christmas tree pin

"Xmas" message tree

Christmas "branch" with dangling colored crystals

Unsigned Trifari petite teardrop tree pin

Triangle Trifecta red glass tree pin

Unsigned Lia Rivoli tree pin

Santa Tree Man Christmas tree pin

Red & Green Crystals tree

St. Labre Christmas tree pin

Vintage Tannenbaums are becoming more popular among costume jewelry collectors, and the prices are rising, despite our sluggish economy.  As I’ve said to many about vintage jewelry in general, they are a better investment than the stock market, especially these days!

For example, in the past few months I’ve sold in my online shop: a very rare Eisenberg crystal tree for $560, a Miriam Haskell tree for $525, a De Nicola tree for $385, a Nolan Miller for $325, the Mylu Peppermint stripe tree for $300, an Austrian tree for $175, a Hollycraft for $165, an MV-signed arbor for $158, and a Kramer of New York candle tree for $140, just to name a few!

So if you want to start your own Christmas-inspired 401K, I suggest you start with the following die-hard, solid investment designers (in alphabetical order):  Art, made in Austria, Avon, Beatrix,  Brooks, Corocraft, Eisenberg, Hollycraft, Johnette Jewelry (JJ), Lia, Mylu, Napier, Pell, Swoboda of California, Tancer II, Trifari, and Weiss.  You can purchase these trees for anywhere from $5 to $100 online, or if you’re lucky, from a thrift store, flea market, antique shop, or trade show.

All these designers have trees in collector books/price guides, which are referred to as “book pieces”.  The Christmas tree go-to “bibles” all collectors use are Mary Morrison’s “Christmas Jewelry” and Nancy Trowbridge’s “Christmas Tree Pins”, as well as Kathy Flood’s Warman’s figural tomes and her own two-volume set of unsigned & signed pins, the second of which is being released this holiday season.

Corocraft twisted trunk Christmas tree pin

Also, you can get a jump-start on today’s designers trees, which will gain value in the near and far future, such as Dorothy Bauer, Lunch at the Ritz, R.J. Graziano, Eisenberg Ice, Kirk’s Folly, Swarovski, and Vero. Eisenberg Ice also makes gorgeous snowflake brooches, of which the premium ones cost $75-$150 each.

If you want to get fancy and like’em rare, designers such as Miriam Haskell, DeNicola, Cadoro, Hattie Carnegie, Cristobal of London, Hobé, Erwin Pearl, Original by Robert, Stanley Hagler, St. John, St. Labré, Lea Stein, Vendome, Larry Vrba, Warner, Yosca, and Zentrall are what you want to put on your wish list (As well as pie-in-the-sky list, too!).

New, high-end designers include Stuart Freeman, Blair Delmonico, Judy Clarke, and La Heir, among others.  For Christmas tree pin collectors, ’tis the season all year round!

Next blog entry will be about:  Unsigned Christmas tree beauties!  STAY TUNED!